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It is not often I am so hurt and outraged by someone or something that I feel compelled to write about it, talk about it or even mention it. I would normally just brush it off or go sulk in private.

How can you say to an artist that in their work “it’s not obvious how it might promote critical dialogue.” and that “It’s not clear to me how the work can acquire meaning”. I thought at all work could generate conversation (what I understand to be critical dialogue) and meaning, some meaning, any meaning. No matter how small to somebody, somewhere, somehow! How can works simply have NONE.

The culprit of this outrage was founded from an email conversation with a small-scale London based curator, which turned into a beast. Initially I had emailed the space explaining that “I have been trying to look for more information about yourselves and methods of programming. I would be really interested in finding out more.” I was searching for more information besides what appeared on their website, it appeared a very interesting space.

I had a response very quickly, this impressed me as sometimes you can be waiting weeks, or end up never getting a reply. I liked that this person was organised. I love organised.

They explained that their programme is “haphazard and opportunistic and not planned far in advance.” Great, this means that they might be responsive to what is happening around them and to the wider art world. This could mean that they are open to artists coming to trial brand spanking new ideas within their space and asking peers for critical feedback. They went on to say that “the content has to be at least as good as half a pint of beer and we don’t take abstraction seriously. The shows are quite short, sometimes very short”…. oooookay! – If I was a curator I am not sure I would be explaining my curatorial objectives as only having to be “as good as half a pint of beer”! I would want the work I showed to be as good as the best real ale you can buy and a full pint at that. Anyway, the conversation continued…

At this stage I feel I need to show you a full transcription of the email dialogue. I do not publish this readily, I feel nervous showing you, but I feel that I need to in order to generate discussion about whether this is really acceptable conduct and behavior. I love that the art world is subjective – it means that there is something being made for everyone tastes. If we all thought the same, life would be pretty dull and boring. The gallerist is of course entitled to their own opinions, and I would not be hurt had they just explained that they did not like my work, but it is their narrow-mindedness and disbelief of whole movements of art that upset and worry me.

Being a full-time freelance artist requires you to self motivate daily. Rejections  are fully acceptable and tolerable, they are part of the territory. It is really helpful when it is further explained why you haven’t been chosen and how you could improve said works, this aids in the development of new work. This feedback, however, was far from being helpful or meaningful, it was damaging and thoughtless.

I am all for being honest! Bloody hell… my middle name is honesty. I respect it as a trait in people. However, I think there is a difference between being constructive and being destructive and this person was definitely the later.

Hi *******,

I hope you had a good weekend? Thanks for getting back to me.

I am looking to develop my practice by engaging in critical dialogue with other artists and curators. I am looking for opportunities to present my work and receive open feedback. I am looking to get out of Manchester and open this dialogue further afield, *** ******** **** seems like a suitable and productive place to maybe encourage this?

Are you open to receive proposals? If so, could you offer me any advice on your selection process, so I am not totally off track with my ideas! You can view my work on my website: www.liz-west.com . If not, I would love my work to be thought of for inclusion in future shows/events. I often make work where I respond to the space site-specifically, but I am also developing a new series of sequential colour studies/photographic works.

Many thanks and best wishes,

Liz West


Dear Liz
We’re open to suggestion so by all means make one. It might be best to visit first, then you’ll have a notion what it might mean to do something at *** ******** **** rather than anywhere else in London. Glancing at your portfolio, it’s not obvious how it might promote critical dialogue. All the colours are agreeable and seem to be applied indiscriminately. It’s not clear to me how the work can acquire meaning, or at least meaning that could be discussed critically. I do know of various doctrines on the meaning of colours but they tend to be dogmatic.
All the best

Dear *******,

I do give myself rules and use systems in the application and choices of colours and making or arrangements; they aren’t and have never been applied indiscriminately. Its a shame this is not evident within all of the work. Food for thought and something to work on for me.

I am a little confused about your statement; “it’s not obvious how it might promote critical dialogue”. What I am interested in doing is getting and hearing peoples opinions about the work and starting a conversation about it; its origins, its process, its rational, its form, its concept, its aesthetic, etc. I was under the impression from my experience that any work could be discussed critically and therefore encourage critical dialogue (as in a crit at art school) as long as the artist is willing to hear it, respond to it and then perhaps implement the advice and feedback.

Surely, most considered art work has meaning and therefore can be discussed critically? Of course, it depends what you understand as ‘meaning’, but I believe meaning can be generated from what a viewer sees in the work, whether this be; formally, aesthetically or conceptually, and how it makes people feel; emotionally, psychically, mentally and sometimes spiritually. People often have very psychical and emotional responses to my work as it impacts on the given space creating whole environments, does this render is meaningless?

Art, being such a subjective career, is a tricky one. I know it would have been easier to say ‘I don’t like it, thank you very much’, but I appreciate that you have considered your response.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best wishes,



Dear Liz
Sorry for making my comments perhaps too brief. What I mean by indiscriminate is that you don’t select the colours, but prefer to show some of each in arbitrary arrangements that are likely to pleasing and mostly immune from criticism. It’s not important whether I like it or not, but there’s nothing much to say about it. Artists used to believe that primary colours represented spiritual values or qualities and could induce particular effects in the viewers of a synaesthetic, quasi-religious or magical nature. I don’t believe it. If I did believe it, I could only refer to the work to assert my doctrine, but that’s not my idea of a conversation.
All the best


This did not warrant my replying.

Did I mention I hate writing when its really just ‘art bollocks’ I needed a dictionary to translate some of what they said.